Cardinals force Game 5 with Phillies as Freese drives in four

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“Of course, being from the South and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have did something,” Manuel said. “I’m a pretty good shot.”

Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats in what could have been his final home game with the Cardinals. He received thunderous cheers every trip to the plate from a standing room crowd of 47,071, second-largest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium.

Pujols made his presence known on defense, catching Chase Utley going for an extra base in the sixth. Utley drew a leadoff walk and kept running on Hunter Pence’s grounder to short, but Pujols alertly jumped off first base to catch the throw and made a sharp relay to third for the out.

“This is obviously the playoffs, but that’s a play I can make in the regular season, too,” Pujols said. “If I would have stayed on the bag, it was going to be tough to get the runner at third. Obviously, that killed the rally right there.”

Edwin Jackson recovered from a rocky beginning to win his first playoff start. After giving up two runs on his first five pitches, he wound up throwing six solid innings. Jason Motte worked a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.

Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, like Freese a St. Louis product, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for 8 the last two games with five strikeouts and has hit only one ball out of the infield.

“I think I’ve been a little bit anxious trying to go up and trying to make things happen instead of letting things happen,” Howard said. “Right now I’m just kind of jumping, so just try to recognize pitches better.”

Oswalt had been 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 previous postseason starts, the biggest closing out old Busch Stadium and the Cardinals in 2005 to get Houston to its first World Series. The right-hander also worked seven shutout innings against St. Louis in the Phillies‘ NL East division clincher in mid-September.

“It’s good to get some early runs, for sure,” Oswalt said. “I felt pretty comfortable after that. Just two bad pitches.”

The biggest jolts for the Cardinals came from their seventh-place hitter. Freese was 2 for 12 the first three games with one RBI before punishing the fourth of the Phillies‘ aces.

Freese’s two-run double down the third-base line in the fourth put St. Louis up 3-2. His two-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth whipped the crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.

Oswalt walked Berkman and hit Holliday, making his first start of the series, to start the fourth. Pence made a fine running catch on the right field warning track to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases, but Freese jumped on a hanging curveball with a drive down the left-field line.

Holliday singled with one out in the sixth and Freese hit a 1-0 pitch to the pasture in straightaway center, not far from where a squirrel made an early appearance, for a three-run cushion. A squirrel also interrupted play in the fifth, racing across the plate an instant after Oswalt’s pitch to Skip Schumaker passed for a ball.

Oswalt argued with plate umpire Angel Hernandez, asking for no pitch. On the next, Schumaker flied out.

In Game 3 Tuesday, a squirrel was seen scampering in foul territory along the third base line.

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